Where are the women?

With the selection of party candidates for the upcoming election a relatively topical issue, I decided to take a look back at previous elections to see which parties normally field candidates for Shetland and Orkney.

Upon doing so I was shocked to discover that every party's candidate has been a man since at least 1997. There hasn't been a single woman on the ballot paper throughout all this time.

Wondering whether this was just a fluke, I had a look at Shetland's constituency for the last four Scottish Parliament elections. In the 1999 and 2003 elections every candidate was a man, while in the 2007 and 2011 elections all the candidates except one were men, the woman both times put forward by the SNP.

To compare this nationally: 20 per cent of Scottish MPs and 33 per cent of MSPs are women, suggesting that at least a fifth of constituencies had at least one woman on the ballot paper.

Moving then to Shetland Islands Council, I discovered that only three of the 22 councillors are women - just 13.6 per cent. This is below the still shockingly small national average of 24.3per cent.

How can it be that Shetland has such terrible representation for women compared to the rest of the country?

Despite having grown up in Shetland I don't have an answer to this question; I can only highlight the scale of the problem.

Thus far only the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have announced their candidates for this May's election, both of whom are men.

I will be keeping a close eye on future announcements from Labour, the Conservatives, UKIP and any other parties to see whether they will allow yet another election to be contested entirely by men.

If anyone has any thoughts as to why this situation exists, I will be very interested to hear them.

Mathew Nicolson
Tresta

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